$9 million allocated for food security projects

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest announced yesterday the government will invest in food security in the upcoming budget year, with a view to decrease the country’s dependence on food imports and stimulate the agriculture industry.

“I can assert today that this government will make food security and sustainability a key priority over the short to medium term, as a policy that will add value for years to come,” he said while delivering the 2020/2021 budget communication in the House of Assembly.

“To kick off the push for greater food security, the Ministry of Agriculture has been allocated between its recurrent and capital budget the sum of $9 million to begin to seed new and innovative projects in partnership with Bahamian farmers and the broader private sector.

“This will, indeed, secure the future of Bahamians and the wealth of our nation.”

Turnquest noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of food security, as “the lockdowns enforced by countries around the world have triggered a slowdown in harvests, cutbacks in exports and other factors that could disrupt the supply chain”.

“As a country surrounded by water, with a myriad of Family Islands with mass land availability, there is no reason why we cannot create, implement and cultivate a 21st Century plan to increase local production to sustainable levels, thereby decreasing, and in some cases completely eradicating, our persistent dependence on imports for consumption, while creating jobs within our economy,” he said.

“[T]o materialize this vision, the government is considering a number of plans to increase the support of local farmers, particularly in the Family Islands. The Department of Agriculture and Marine Resources has already signaled that it is working diligently with local producers and domestic importers to closely monitor any further supply chain disruptions.

“This has birthed the Emergency Food Production Plan, which the minister for agriculture and marine resources would have outlined in this honorable house last month. This $1.6 million investment in food security in The Bahamas will support the purchasing of hydroponic and backyard kits and the provision of farm inputs.

“The Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources has commissioned a task force to address food security and substitution. The government will also consider recommendations made to it on this subject matter by or through the Economic Recovery Committee.”

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